Reaching out to refugees
The plight of Syrian refugees struggling to start a new life, with many dying as they attempt to flee a war-torn country ruled by an oppressive government, has touched people all over the world.
Already, many people in Newfoundland and Labrador have stepped up to sponsor families, with thousands of refugees stranded in Europe with no place to go.
For Courtney Howell, an entrepreneur and mother in Grates Cove with a young family, the troubling situation for those trying to leave Syria was alarming for herself and her husband, Terrence Howell.
“It’s something Terrence and I talked about,” said Courtney, co-owner of Grates Cove Studios. “It’s important for us to expose (our daughter) Phoenix — she’s a global citizen. She just doesn’t know it yet.”
In conversations with a number of other couples and individuals they know, it was agreed as a group they would put in the time to raise the $10,000 needed to sponsor a family. That money should look after the family’s basic needs for the first year, and the federal government will match living expenses for the first six months.
The Howells have two rental homes in the community and will reserve one of them for the family, unless it becomes appar- ent they need a more spacious home.
Joining the Howells in the endeavour are David and Sherry Jenkins of Western Bay, Jesse and Trudy Bown of Carbonear, Rob and Deb Harley of Grates Cove and Joy Matthews of Carbonear.
“Part of what we do here is just talk with people, and when the Syrian crisis was happening, it’s just one of the things we talked about,” said Courtney.
The Bowns and Jenkins help support a school in Rwanda and have even travelled to the country over the years, so they were more than willing to lend their support to a good cause, as was Matthews.
They got in touch with the Association for New Canadians and learned about what needed to happen to prepare for welcoming a refugee family. They hoped for an earlier start on fundraising, but there was some uncertainty earlier this year as to how the Canadian government would proceed with accepting and supporting refugees.
Money raised will go into a Guaranteed Investment Certificate account specifically for the family through the Association for New Canadians. The group expects a family of four-to-five people will be come, with children likely a part of that equation.
“People are already donating bikes and things for the family,” said Courtney. “It’s getting very real and exciting.”
The Grade 6 class at TriCon Elementary in Bay de Verde, where the Howell’s seven-yearold daughter attends classes, donated just over $200 raised through a bake sale.
The Harleys also donated a car to the family. Courtney expects they’ll need to raise a bit more than $10,000 to also cover insurance for the vehicle.
Friday, June 17, Grates Cove Studios will host a fundraiser featuring a slew of local entertainers, including the Harleys, The Salty Top Boys, Wayne Button, Junior Butt, Hannah Froude and others. There’ll be games of chance, a silent auction, and door prizes. Proceeds from a free will offering will support the sponsorship fund.
The group has also set up a fundraising website, which includes more details on how people can contribute to the sponsorship fund.
“We just decided to try and help.” Courtney Howell
The Harleys and Howells are looking forward to welcoming a family of Syrian refugees to Grates Cove later this year. They’re part of a group raising funds to sponsor a family fleeing the war-torn country. Pictured (from left) are Rob and Deb Harley and Terrence, Courtney and seven-year-old Phoenix Howell.